The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1959

1959 is one of those years that I mentioned yesterday — what are you gonna do? I mean, Best Picture was Ben-Hur. Can you really not just give it Best Picture and Best Director? It’s an Epic with a capital E. Cast of thousands, grand spectacle of the theater — there was no way it wasn’t winning.

So, there really isn’t going to be much to talk about for this one, other than me suggesting which ones to see of the bunch. Before we get into that, let’s quickly run down the rest of the categories. Charlton Heston won Best Actor for Ben-Hur, Simone Signoret won Best Actress for Room at the Top, Hugh Griffith won Best Supporting Actor, also for Ben-Hur, and Shelley Winters won Best Supporting Actress for The Diary of Anne Frank. So, you can pretty much tell they just went for the sweep with Ben-Hur. It didn’t sweep, but, aside from All About Eve and Return of the King, and maybe Titanic, I think those are the top four Oscar nominated or winning films of all time. Fuck if I know which is which or if it’s both.


And the nominees are…

Jack Clayton, Room at the Top

George Stevens, The Diary of Anne Frank

Billy Wilder, Some Like It Hot

William Wyler, Ben-Hur

Fred Zinnemann, The Nun’s Story

Clayton — I watched this film again today just to make sure my thoughts were accurate. I don’t like it. I don’t care so much that it’s nominated, but, the Best Actress win is where I really have the problem. But we’ll get to that another time.

The film is about an ambitious man who sets his sights on on businessman’s daughter. He figures if he marries her, he’ll go places. In an anti-Place in the Sun move, he ends up falling in love with an older woman instead. And it’s kind of a romance, but a tragedy, obviously. You can tell from the start. He falls in love with the older woman, and she’s still married, but it’s a loveless marriage, and he wants to be with her, but he also knows he’ll go places with the younger woman, and then the older woman ends up drinking and dying in a car accident and he marries the younger woman, even though he still loves the older woman. That’s it, really.

The direction is fine. Never gonna beat Ben-Hur though.

Stevens — I love this film. It’s a great, great adaptation of the — well, book. Diary, whatever. The most famous diary since Bridget Jones’s. I assume you all know what it’s about. If not — my explaining it to you is the least of your worries. Trust me.

I’d say this is a contender to win if Wyler wasn’t nominated, but Stevens had won two Oscars by this point — one of which, as I’ve detailed, I felt to be totally unworthy — which automatically disqualifies him. But it’s all a moot point, since Wyler is nominated.

Wilder — Some Like It Hot is one of the funniest movies of all time. In fact, AFI ranked it as the funniest movie of all time. It’s just brilliant.

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are musicians who accidentally witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. And the mobster sees them and wants them dead. So, they have to hide out. What they do, is, take a job with a traveling band. Problem is, it’s an all-female band. So, they have to dress up like women and pretend they are women. And hijinks ensue, naturally. And while they’re pretending to be women, Tony Curtis falls in love with Marilyn Monroe. So what happens is, he comes out of the disguise at points and pretends to be a millionaire, then, when back in the disguise, talks himself up to Monroe, because she trusts his female character as an older sister of sorts. And then Lemmon — of course — gets all the crazy things happening to him. While he’s dressed as a woman, an older millionaire guy actually falls in love with him, and doesn’t realize that he’s actually a man. And then of course the mobsters come, and they have to run, and then everything works out in the end, Curtis and Monroe, and then there’s the final line, where the rich guy has Jack Lemmon on a speedboat, and he finally says, “Look, I’m a man.” And the guy just goes, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

It’s a fucking hysterical film. I’d seriously just vote for this if it weren’t for Wyler. Just because, Stevens, while the clear second choice here, won two already, and the first one I thought was a terrible choice. Not that it matters anyway, since Wyler is your clear winner and no one else was even close to winning.

Wyler — It’s Ben-Hur. Have you seen that chariot race? That alone wins this award in this category.

Seriously. You can’t vote against it. It’s too good a job.

Zinnemann — This is a great film, mostly because of Hepburn’s performance. Otherwise, it’s a religious film, and is kind of long and monotonous. But you know, it’s all relative. It’s clear that this is nowhere near winning. It’s a nominee only film, and that’s that.

Wow, that was surprisingly simple. I like easy categories like this.

My Thoughts: Wyler is the only choice here. It’s not even close.

My Vote: Wyler

Should Have Won: Wyler

Is the result acceptable?: Well, everything else would have been unacceptable. Let’s put it that way.

Ones I suggest you see: Ben-Hur, just because it’s so grand. Just watch it one afternoon. The great thing about films like this is, you don’t always have to pay attention. You can just leave it on and do something else and you’ll still end up catching all the important parts. Some Like It Hot is also seriously one of the funniest films ever made. You need to see this movie. I can’t see how you can be a fan of movies and not have seen this one. The Diary of Anne Frank is also an amazing, amazing film. It’s kind of like Mockingbird in the sense that, I don’t think you can ever remake the film as successfully as it was made here. Nun’s Story is really only worth it if you’re a Hepburn fan. Otherwise it doesn’t carry much appeal.


5) Clayton

4) Zinnemann

3) Stevens

2) Wilder

1) Wyler


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